Monday, October 30, 2023

Medical staff

I joke sometimes that I have a staff of physicians. 

In addition to my primary care physician, who we once called a general practitioner or GP, I have a dermatologist; a urologist; two ear-nose-throat (ENT) docs; and a podiatrist. 

Soon I am likely to have a cardiologist, as I have never been to one and think, at my age, I should probably add one to the group. And I will soon be going to see an orthopedic surgeon for him to take a look at my knees. I have two ENTs because I go a couple times a year to one who cleans my ears of wax with this super advanced equipment, and another who has been able to help me with some chronic sinus stuff that plagued me for years. 

There are many advances in modern medicine that work great for me. For instance, my primary care doctor, whose office is affiliated with Vanderbilt University, has an online patient portal where I can see all my records and lab results. I can also make appointments there and, best of all, I can send an email to the office and have it answered by either the doc herself or a nurse on her staff. In almost all cases, I'll get a response in 24 hours, or 48 at most. 

It is not like I send them emails often, but it is a quick and easy way to ask a question about medication or a follow-up question from an appointment. It seems to work efficiently for my doctor as well and is probably easier than trying to field telephone calls and messages.

One negative about my primary care doc's office is they generally don't want me to come if I am sick. Let's say I have cold symptoms or something that seems like the flu, and I call for an appointment. They will refer me to a walk-in clinic in their system. They will say my doc, or any other in the office, only has appointments weeks out and obviously I need immediate attention. 

I guess this doesn't bother me a lot, and I have to accept that the former family-doctor model, at least for the medical system I am a part, is no more. My primary doc is for yearly physicals and "maintenance" (for example, I am going for some follow-up blood work in late November), but I need to see the walk-in folks if I am sick. 

My other docs also have an online presence, but some are not as efficient as that of my primary care doctor. As a matter of fact, the one my podiatrist uses is less than satisfactory, to the point I am considering changing providers in that area. I liked the care I received, but the follow-up communication has been poor.

One positive I have seen in recent years is with appointments. I would say, for most of my doctor appointments, I wait less than 15 minutes on average -- often much less. I understand things happen sometimes. At one of my ENT's offices, I arrived at an appointment a couple years ago, only to be told he had been delayed with an emergency and was running several hours behind. They were apologetic and offered to reschedule me the next day. 

While that was an inconvenience, I appreciated the attitude shown, and that they were quick to get me rescheduled. And with this office, nothing like this has ever happened. So, I gave them grace, and I am still a patient. 

I have learned I must be my own advocate when it comes to healthcare. Each of my doctors sees numerous patients, so I have to remind him/her of my medical history, talk through medications, etc.  Also, I have to keep a close eye on lab results. At my recent physical exam, my primary care doctor was supposed to include PSA in my blood work so I could report that to my urologist, and not have to have it done twice. 

When I reviewed the lab results online, I saw there were no PSA results. I sent an email and learned it had not, in fact, been done. 

I wish I did not have to have such a collection of doctors. They're all nice enough people but going to see them is not how I would choose to spend my time. 

But how fortunate am I to have this group of doctors? I am in relatively good health, and with these fine folks giving me the occasional once-over and providing guidance, I hope to keep it that way.  

Monday, October 23, 2023

Cousins, etc.

I have about 20 first cousins, with my dad being one of five siblings and my mother one of six. 

As I was growing up, I saw these cousins infrequently. Some of them I hardly know to this day and on my mother's side, there are a few I have never met. Two of her siblings were half-siblings who were born much later than she and her other siblings, and had their families later. 

Of course, some of the cousins have now died. I am not sure how many I have that are still living, but I am guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 15. 

I have one from my mother's side who lives in the Nashville area, and we get together maybe twice a year. Every couple of years or so, Wife and I might have dinner with him and his wife. They have one son who lives here. Years ago, I ran into him at a restaurant and tried to explain to him who I was, but I could tell he did not quite understand. 

When my brother was living, when he or any part of his family came to town, we would invite this cousin and his wife to join us for a meal. 

I need not go into the reasons I have never gotten to know most of my cousins very well, other than to say (and this is nothing profound) families are complicated. I know some families in which the cousins are much closer. My children are not particularly close to their first cousins (my brother's children and Wife's sister's children), which I think is partially due to the distance they grew up from each other and partially to how very, very different they are from each other. I think my grandchildren will be closer to each other, and I hope that will be the case. 

As it turns out, over the past year, I have seen every living first cousin from my dad's side. The cousin to whom I am closest lives in Dallas. Even though she is about 15 years older than I, she is definitely the one I know best. When her husband died late last year, I went for the funeral. Also in attendance was another first cousin whom I had not seen in probably 50 years, and as best I can remember, this was the third time I had ever seen her. 

Then, last spring, one of my first cousins who had lived in Memphis passed away. There was a delayed memorial service for her in August, and I went for that. All of my other first cousins on my dad’s side, except for the other aforementioned one in Dallas, were there. 

Last Sunday, the Dallas cousin flew into Atlanta, where Wife and I had been visiting Older Son and family. We collected her at the airport and drove to the mountains of western North Carolina, where we stayed three days. While there, we visited one of the other cousins in that area who lives in Savannah, Georgia, but has bought a small farm in North Carolina and spends part of his time there with his wife. 

Wife and I love this part of North Carolina (it’s where we celebrated Wife’s birthday in June, which I previously posted). It is especially nice in the fall and the leaves were turning, which made it even prettier.

The time being with these two cousins was sweet, and I think we were all three mindful of the connection that binds us together, even though our visits have been relatively few. There were a number of conversations where we could put together our collective memories and come up with things that happened while we were growing up. We also learned from each other about our parents. 

Maybe we will do better about seeing and keeping up with each other. Even if we don't, I will cherish the visit we got to have. A picture of my cousin's farmhouse is below, along with some other shots of the fall foliage. 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Not so fast

Anyone who has visited this blog for any length of time knows I like to travel. In recent years I have been fortunate enough to travel in the U.S., Canada and Europe. 

If our health holds up, Wife and I will continue to travel. And if you have read my accounts of our trips, you know we do it on our own, following loose itineraries Wife plans in advance based on extensive research she does. We have never wanted to join a tour group. 

One place to which she and I have never had much of a desire to go, however, is Israel, or the Holy Land. Over the years we have a had a number of friends who have gone, and they have always returned with stories of how wonderful it is, and how if you are of the Jewish or Christian faith, it really makes that faith come to life. 

Perhaps, we have thought. But we still had no plans to visit there. We'll look at our friends' picture and listen to their stories. 

A couple months ago, one of our pastors, who is also a longtime close friend, going back to our single days in Little Rock, asked us if we would like to consider going with him on a trip he will be leading to Israel in the spring of 2025.

We talked about it, and I went to a meeting of folks who might have an interest in going. Wife and I decided maybe this would be the time to go. We love our friend who will be leading the trip, and we will know many of the people going. And even though we have resisted tour groups as such, to see this part of the world, that's probably the way to do it. 

The deadline for making our deposit to reserve our spot was noon yesterday, about 24 hours after we had heard the news that war has broken out in Israel. I know there is always some type of upheaval there with the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but this appears worse than what has happened previously. 

We will see how things progress. But deposit or no deposit, I will not be boarding a plane bound for Israel if this is not resolved by the time we are supposed to go. That date is a long way off, but resolution of this particular matter seems as if it could take a long time. 

In all seriousness, it really does seem like a grave situation, and my heart aches for innocent families who woke to witness fighting nearby.